Ukraine’s top harpist will make an emotional appeal at the Welsh festival

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Veronika Leminshenko with Elinor Bennet in 2018

A top harpist from Ukraine will make a moving appeal at a music festival in North Wales asking people to donate money to her war-torn homeland.

Virtuoso Veronika Leminshenko will perform virtually at the Wales Harp Festival at Galeri Caernarfon and will be interviewed live via video link by the event’s artistic director, renowned harpist Elinor Bennet

She staged her fundraising tour at breakneck speed after quitting her job in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg where she was working with the orchestra when President Putin ordered his troops to invade her homeland.

Veronika was lucky to escape while many fellow Ukrainians were detained or arrested, but she managed to reach the airport and catch a flight after two other planes were canceled.

His parents Alla and Yuri and his brother, Maksym, decamped to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv from their hometown of Kharkiv, which was pulverized by heavy Russian shelling.

Veronika’s parents and their dog at the air-raid shelter (Kharkiv, February 2022)

Other family members, close friends and musical associates take refuge in basements, struggling to find food and resources amid Putin’s ruthless assault on Ukraine.

Veronika, 33, has performed at the Wales Harp Festival on several occasions, always representing Ukraine, including shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, when she wore with challenge the Ukrainian national costume for his performance.

This year’s festival will take place in Galeri on April 12 and 13. It combines concerts with masterclasses and workshops, offering harpists of all ages and abilities the opportunity to learn from some of the best performers in the world.

Veronika had originally hoped to return to Wales to perform in person, but difficulties obtaining travel documents mean she is unlikely to get here in time.

Instead, organizers have arranged for her to pre-record a concert in Paris to be screened during the festival ahead of the live interview.

Safe Haven

Elinor and her husband, Dafydd Wigley, have offered to open their home as a refuge for Veronika’s family members, but are struggling to get the proper paperwork.

Mr Wigley is now urging the Government to facilitate access for Ukrainian refugees to the UK.

Elinor said she was heartbroken by the desperate and cruel plight of her friend Veronika and her compatriots.

She said: “We are doing everything we can to help Veronika. She is such a brave force for good. His actions were incredible from the start of Putin’s violent assault. The situation in Ukraine is unbelievable, so many people have been left homeless and deprived of this barbaric and inhumane dictator.

Veronika is currently touring major European cities including Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany and France.

In each destination, she organized concerts and held harp masterclasses to raise funds to support destitute victims of the Russian invasion.

At the end of each concert, she appeals to the world to help Ukraine. She also posted a video call online.

She established the Veronika Leminshenko Charity Foundation in cooperation with the Glowing Harp Festival which she had previously established in Kharkiv.

To date, she has raised seven thousand euros while friends and colleagues from the harp playing community have raised another five thousand euros.

Every day, she focuses on other ways to raise awareness and funds, while worrying for her family members who live in danger in Lviv and Kharkiv.

Between concerts, she hopes to return to Ukraine to see her parents in Lviv.

She said: “I think about my family every moment and try to talk to them and my friends who are in Ukraine or who have been forced to leave the country every day.

“The world needs to know that these atrocities are happening right now in the 21st century, people are dying senselessly before our eyes and we need to do everything we can to stop this monstrous aggression.”

Her boyfriend, conductor and violinist, and their pet dog also escaped from Yekaterinburg after the invasion.

He cannot currently return to Russia without risking his freedom as he participated in protests against the invasion.

Before the war, Veronika had planned, through her organization Glowing Harp (glowingharp-ukraine.com), to organize a harp festival in Kharkiv in April, organized with her first harp teacher Larysa Klievtsova – a plan that now had to be abandoned. But she hopes to be able to perform in Lviv soon when she visits her parents.

According to Veronika, she received support from harpists around the world, helping with the whole organization. Veronika’s Charity Foundation and harp associations from different countries help young Ukrainian harpists to continue their professional training in the Czech Republic, Poland, France and Germany.

Veronika Lemishenko

She has also received support from members of the Kyiv National Symphony Orchestra which is going on tour despite the fact that some of the Ukrainian musicians have been seconded to help in the country’s defense efforts.

Further support came from the famous French harp makers Camac. The company let Veronika use their Paris studio to record her performance for screening at the Wales Harp Festival. She will perform three Ukrainian compositions, Dumka (Contemplation) by Vasyl Barvinsky; Memoir of Myroslav Skoryk; and Remembrance of his close friend and Glowing Harp composer-in-residence Evgen Andreev.

This year is the first time since 2019 that the festival has been able to organize a live concert. The Covid-19 pandemic forced its cancellation two years ago and forced it to become a virtual event in 2021.

The finale will see brilliant young harpist Gwenllian Llyr perform her own arrangement of a Welsh anthem, alongside music created by Mared Emlyn. Up-and-coming jazz harpist Benjamin Creighton-Griffiths will also perform with his band, the Transatlantic Hot Club.

Organized by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (CGWM) since 1999, the Wales Harp Festival is now held annually and has also spawned the International Harp Festival which is held every four years and is due to be held again in 2023.

The theme for this year’s event is Inspire, Heal, Renew!

Elinor said: “The theme was to be one of positivity as we negotiate a way out of the pandemic, but with the most tragic irony the world is now facing this terrible war.

“Veronika and her compatriots are symbols of light in this terrible darkness, working heroically to defeat the tyranny that envelops them and their families.

“She is one of the most accomplished young harpists in the world and considering all that she has been through, we feel deeply privileged to be able to include her performance at the festival.

“I implore people to watch and celebrate his efforts and support his foundation.”

To donate to the Veronika Lemishenko Charity Foundation visit https://glowingharp-ukraine.com for full festival program details go to www.walesharpfestival.co.uk


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